Fun in the Sun!

So, the weather has been right at the perfect balance here between hot as *$%^ and just a bit too chilly so we've been taking advantage and spending the weekends at the beach. We say we're "going fishing," but we really sit in lawn chairs with our feet in the water holding a fishing pole, feeding shrimp to the fish every so often. They must bite I guess, since our line comes back sans bait, but we never manage to actually hook them and reel them in. They mush be smart fish because none of the other fishermen on the beach ever seem to be either.

But, alas, we still go and cast out and enjoy this bit of nice weather before the hotter than hot comes. It's fun, and I get to model a pretty sweet SPF fisherwoman shirt. It's cool and fashionable, I know. Nick takes care of the shrimp. If I do, I get too attached with their beady eyes looking up at me pleading for freedom.






Quick Fixin: Eggplant Pizzas

This meal is so utterly painless you'll wonder afterwards if you really cooked dinner. But the flavor will ensure your taste buds and your appetite that yes, you have.

The active cooking time for this dish is hmm...5 minutes? Ok, maybe 10 - if you use freshly grated cheese. It's just the type of dish that I've been looking for though, since the weather has started to warm. It's light, but flavorful. Served with a side salad (with fresh from the garden arugula) and some bread for dipping and you have the makings of a lovely meal.


Eggplant Pizzas
adapted from Julia's Kitchen Wisdom

Ingredients:
1 (or two) eggplant
salt
pizza seasoning
your favorite jar of tomato sauce
your favorite pizza cheese, grated  (I used a combination of Rustico Red Pepper and Cacia de Roma)

Preheat your oven to 400 F.

Cut the eggplant into 1/2" thick rounds and sprinkle lightly with salt. Lay on towels so that the towels will absorb the moisture the eggplants "sweat" out. Let them rest and sweat their moisture for 20-30 minutes.

After the 20-30 minutes, pat the eggplants dry and place them on an oiled baking sheet. Brush the tops with olive oil and sprinkle on your herbs. Cover the baking sheet with foil and bake for 20 minutes, or until tender.

Remove the rounds from the oven, top with a spoonful or two of tomato sauce and sprinkle on some cheese. Broil the rounds until the cheese has browned. Plate and serve.

March Meal Plan


Click to enlarge
 
A little late, please forgive me. I just didn't want to interrupt those fabulous ladies last week. I hope you all enjoyed them and had fun visiting their blogs.

This month was a bit tricky! It's Lent! So, I switched around my normal categories so that Friday was now a Meatless Meal. Like usual, we end up with bits and pieces from other meals that we need to use up, so those will get used in the OPEN days. Nick was away for a few days also, and with some leftovers in the fridge, I was happy to have those days OPEN as well, so that's why it looked like I was a lazy cook Week 1.

I'm already happily planning next month because guess what showed up at my doorstep?! Presents! (Even though I ordered them, I will continue to call them presents since I bought them with a gift card. :-p)


I was so excited to get these. I had already purchased the samples on my kindle (and even tried a few recipes), so I was so excited to get the real deal.

In general, I have mixed feelings about cookbooks. With so many recipes from highly acclaimed chefs available on the internet, along with a host of blogs with even more recipes for free, I'm hard pressed to find the need for cookbooks. I have several, but they tend to hang out on a shelf as dust collectors the majority of the time.

But as I've gotten more experience in the kitchen, I've asked my cookbooks to do more than I originally intended. As I'm sure it is with most new cooks, I started out (in college) with a basic recipe book (Better Homes & Gardens) and a few others by some of my favorite TV chefs. I have used them, and still make some of the recipes (by now, memorized). Now, this time I wanted cookbooks that I could continue to learn from as well as keep me pursuing in my newest cooking categories (ice cream making and baking in particular).

I recently read Julia's Kitchen Wisdom and really enjoyed the set up of the book. While it is a bit hard to follow the recipes as it is really written like a novel, she gives many variations on a Master Recipe, essentially instructing you on the basics while also giving you the leeway to come up with your own variation.

It was the type I was looking for. I realized that the books I had, while the recipes were good, didn't really teach me much but to make that exact recipe. I like the idea of learning the basic recipe and then learning how to vary that recipe. That's essentially how you learn to cook anyway. So, I ordered some samples on my kindle (I just love that feature) and made a few recipes and ordered the books.

Which just dropped in on my doorstep, so you'll have to wait for a full review of these as I make more recipes, but from what I've made so far, these are keepers.

What are some of your favorite cookbooks? Have you started meal planning? If so, how's it going?

Food for Thought: Angie

To wrap up the series, we have Angie from Cocina Diary. She always has fresh, delicious meals posted on her blog that make me salivate every time I visit. Check out her Q & A post below and then go visit her blog.


Why do you enjoy cooking?
I enjoy cooking very much because it brings me back to my childhood. As a late bloomer in the cooking arena, my earliest memories are of my grandma and my mom cooking. And they were always laughing.  Cooking also relaxes me. I get lost in the preparation, the mixing of ingredients, and get so excited looking forward to the final product.  

How long have you been cooking? 
I have been cooking since my late 20s early 30s. Growing up I would help with preparing the food, but real cooking - by myself, was something that I was forced to do when I found myself living on the other side of the world with no mom or grandma in sight. Suddenly I needed to cook, and by that I mean something more than sandwiches and ramen noodles. So, I bought a cookbook (Art Smith’s Back to the Table), and started cooking.  

Who do you cook for?   
Honestly, as a single girl, I cook mostly for myself. I have come to learn with age that just because I am single doesn’t mean I have to eat like a college student. I do most of my cooking on weekends because I work about 15 hours a day. But my little ritual on Saturdays is preparing a fabulously and super time consuming recipe, and then having dinner with candle lights, my good china (right now I am using Ralph Lauren’s China in Cocktail Dress pattern…you have to check it out. It is so chic) and a glass of bubbly. It is my way of celebrating life. But by no means am I a selfish cook. I love cooking for friends and family. I just enjoy feeding people. 

What is important to you when it comes to food? 
My most important requirement is that it looks good…LOL. I have a thing with food that does not look good. If it doesn’t look good, I won’t even taste it. That is my thing. I will try anything once at least if it looks good.  The second most important thing is eating homemade. For some reason I find it very rewarding to eat something homemade, whether I make it or someone else does. It just shows caring. Plus you can really control the quality of the ingredients that go into each dish.

What inspires you in your cooking? 
Fresh ingredients. I love cooking with fresh produce and working in bringing out or enhancing their natural flavors. Also, celebrations. I love cooking for celebrations and for those special occasions I love complicated and fancy recipes. The more ingredients the better.

What is your favorite food or meal? 
Oh, that’s easy: linguine with white clam sauce especially if it is from this awesome restaurant in my town called Pierro’s. It is delicious! But the second best linguine with white clam sauce recipe is from Rachael Ray.  It is simple and delish!       



Linguine with White Clam Sauce
recipe courtesy of Rachel Ray

Ingredients:

1/2 pound linguine
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
4-6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tin flat anchovy fillets (6 fillets), drained
4-5 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves stripped (about 2 tablespoons)
1 cup dry white wine 
1 can whole baby clams (15 ounces), with their juice 
Grated zest of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons flat leaf parsley, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Crusty bread

Put a large pot of water over high heat. When water boils, add salt and pasta. Cook until slightly underdone, about 6-7 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil, garlic and anchovies. Cook until anchovies melt into the olive oil, then add thyme and wine. Simmer to reduce, about one minute. Stir in clams with their juice and the lemon zest.


Drain pasta, add to skillet and toss with sauce. Cook 2-3 minutes until pasta is al dente and has absorbed some flavor. Add parsley, salt and pepper. Serve with crusty bread for mopping up remaining juices.
 

 A Note from Jess:
First, I wanted to thank all the ladies that have written guests posts on The Saucy Kitchen this past week.
I hope that you have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know them and finding some other blogs to enjoy. I'd love to hear your thoughts (yes, you, dear readers). What do you think about food? How does your food philosophy shape how you cook for yourself or your family? 

*If you want to contribute a guest post about your particular philosophy, bloggers and non-bloggers alike, email me at thesaucykitchen@gmail.com.

Food for Thought: Colleen

Today, Colleen, from Brunchner. I've known Colleen since highschool, when we both wore the same polo shirt and khaki uniform. She was also Nick's neighbor growing up. And now she writes about tasty, healthy food from her apartment in the Big Apple. She's still got some Pittsburgh in her though! Check out some of her tasty recipes (after you read her post below, of course).



The American culture has never before been so food-centric, and let’s not forget why: it is fun to cook! Fun to enjoy a meal with family and friends! Nothing else have I seen brings people together more quickly. It is this sentiment that drives my culinary fascination. An undeniable passion for sharing experiences is enforced by a healthy living mantra; one that celebrates nutritious food choices. This vibrancy provokes me to go beyond the norms of a young, novice home chef to satisfy a sheer curiosity of food; to simply enjoy the process of cooking; to steadily try to grow as an epicure while taking in nuances of the vast culinary world.
I like knowing the science and history behind food…it’s neat. And, chances are that I will share this unsolicited information while fully believing that everyone has the same burning questions. Did you know pectin in an apple can act as a natural thickener for fruit pie fillings? Or, that jerked beef can be easily made in your home oven, and then sent overseas without turning rancid? Or, that chocolate milk is the optimal workout recovery drink largely because whey protein is fast-acting, allowing amino acids to quickly reach muscle tissue? Snippets aside, I am lucky to have an eager cast of family and friends that are always willing to aide, initiate or reap the benefits of my culinary expeditions.  
In a society where food has become a drug-like emotional aphrodisiac I am pleased to find day-to-day excitement from fresh foods that are prepared in ways to enhance, not masque the flavors of their unadulterated form. Sweet potatoes: sliced, seasoned and roasted. Tricolor heirloom tomatoes: halved and tossed in freshly whisked balsamic vinaigrette. Watermelon: sliced, that’s it. Think about these few examples of earth’s delicious bounty to which we benefit. And, what little more, if anything, they need to be enjoyed. Alas, natural peanut butter is one of these things.
What good is there not to say about the creamy goodness that is peanut butter? It is a favorite – and I stress favorite – food of mine. A rare day goes by when a generous dollop is not spread on a crisp gala apple, ripe banana or toasted whole wheat product. Further exploring pb is both fitting and a reflection of my philosophy of taking excitement in healthy eats.
Peanut butter is a virtue rather than a vice; the latter of which it is often pegged because of the high levels of fat. It’s monounsaturated fat, c’mon people!  And, it is this fat – in the form of natural oils – that makes for the smooth creamy texture once released when ground. Same goes for any for any other nut. So, surprisingly or not, homemaking pb requires little more than pushing the “grind” button of a food processor. 
As for the palm oil, sugar and other preservatives found in processed peanut butter – tah. No, thank you! Who needs it? On its own, peanut butter is an excellent source of fiber, protein and other micronutrients; a dream food for fitness enthusiasts and my staple during any rigorous training regimen. Now, go on, make it for yourself…it’s fun! Oh, and by the way, a peanut is actually not a nut at all; it is part of the legume or “bean” family. 
Homemade Peanut Butter

Ingredients
15 oz roasted Spanish* peanuts, shelled and skinned
1 t kosher salt
1 1/2 t honey (optional)


*Spanish nuts higher oil content than other types of peanuts which some peanut butter producers find preferable. You’ll also commonly see Valencia Peanut Butter (like at Trader Joe’s). In short, they all have oils to create a creamy texture. Test out a few to find your favorite.


Place the peanuts, salt and honey (if using) into the bowl of a food processor. Process for 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Place the lid back on and continue to process until the mixture is smooth, about 2 minutes. 

To create a chunky peanut butter, simply follow the above instructions, and then mix in the desired amount of chopped peanuts. 


*Peanut butter can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 months

Food for Thought: Shannon

Welcome Shannon from Lemongrove Avenue. There the former vegetable hater documents her adventures in cooking (in between her work, grad school classes and homework). Check out her site
for some tasty recipe ideas - especially if you are cooking for one!




One of the biggest reasons I enjoy cooking is because I love to eat! (I couldn't agree more - Jess) Since in addition to eating well, I strive to lead a healthy lifestyle, it’s very important to me that I truly enjoy what I am eating. Therefore, I tend to prefer dishes with strong flavors that are both creative and nutritious.
Though I have always loved cooking, I didn’t really discover how passionate I was about it until somewhat recently. In college I had the opportunity to study abroad in Florence, Italy where I took an Italian cooking class that was tremendously inspiring. Not only were the ingredients we used the freshest available, often purchased at the market just before our class, but they were very un-intimidating. I remember a simple dish our teacher prepared, cuttlefish cooked in white wine and olive oil, served with fresh shaved Tuscan cheese.  It was far from fancy but it was by far one of the most flavorful things I have ever tasted. Soon after, I learned to truly appreciate fresh and local ingredients. I still dream about the fresh mozzarella I’d pick up at the market on my way home from school and slice up with tomatoes and drizzle with unfiltered extra virgin olive oil.
I love sharing great food with my family and friends but most often I am cooking for one. This allows me to be adventurous and have more flexibility to try new things. Though I don’t cook with any rigid restrictions, I try to eat a lot of vegetables, grains and lean meats. Most of the time I make chicken, fish or a vegetarian dish with tofu as a protein.  During the warmer months, as I live just outside of Boston, I let my farmer’s market finds inspire me in my cooking.
Though Pad Thai might be one of my favorite things to eat, I recently created a Basil Coconut Curry dish with chicken that was simple to prepare yet boasted complex flavors. Since I am quite proud of this dish, I’d love to share the recipe with the readers of The Saucy Kitchen.

Basil Coconut Curry with Chicken
a Lemongrove Avenue Original
 Ingredients:

1 Whole Chicken Breast
1/2 Can Unsweetened Light Coconut Milk
1 t. Cumin
1 t. Coriander, ground
1/2 t. Cayenne Pepper
1 t. Chili Powder
1/4 t. Turmeric
1 t. Curry Powder
1 C. Vegetable Broth
Handful of Fresh Basil Leaves
1 Jalapeno, chopped and seeded
Begin by cutting the chicken breast into chunks. In a bowl, mix all spices and then add chicken chunks, coating chicken. In a large sauce pan, sprayed with non-stick cooking spray, heat chicken (medium heat) until cooked through. Remove chicken and put aside. Pour 1/2 of broth into pan to deglaze with cooking juices from chicken. When pain is deglazed, add coconut milk, basil leaves and jalapeno. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer. Add cooked chicken to pan and allow to heat for a few more minutes. Allow sauce to thicken (doesn’t take very long… I added 1 t. cornstarch to assist). Serve chicken with sauce over rice or veggies (I served mine over sautéed spinach and mushrooms). Enjoy!

Food for Thought: Andrea

Andrea, author of the blog Andrea the Kitchen Witch, was one of my earliest followers. Her blog is a great resource - full of great, made-from-scratch meals that taste delicious and look great, but aren't so fancy that they are daunting to a novice. To date, I've made both her Goat Cheese and Zucchini Galette and her Chicken Tikka Masala - both with tasty results. Once you've read her Q&A post below, go check out her site for more inspiration.

Hi Readers, this is Andrea the Kitchen Witch. Jess offered me a chance to guest post for her and I was delighted to say yes!! I love Jess' site - her photos are awesome and the recipes she posts makes me want to get into the kitchen & create. My bookmarks bar is filled with ideas from The Saucy Kitchen!   

Why do you enjoy cooking?
Whats not to love? I really like everything about the cooking process (except the dish washing!) from the shopping for ingredients, the creative process of deciding how to handle and prepare the ingredients, the sounds and colors of the prep work, the smells of the cooking, the changes in texture and taste, it all intrigues me. I really enjoy the science of cooking as well and like to play with different techniques. Its fun for me to see how a simple tomato can go from a sandwich topper to a sauce with a few simple steps.

How long have you been cooking (what is your cooking experience, who taught you to cook)?
My cooking history is long. I was a cooking show addict from a very young age. PBS in the summer was great for me, Jacques Pepin, Julia Child, Lidia Bastianich, Caprial Pence, Rick Bayless and Jeff Smith educated and entertained me with their cooking and food knowledge. I loved to hear the history of foods, ingredients, preparation methods, and they way they define cultures. Intently I watched these greats make food, simple and delicious dishes, before my very eyes. I'll never forget watching the Frugal Gourmet, Jeff Smith, make balsamic glazed cippolini onions and drooling, even though I'd never tasted a drop of balsamic, heck we couldn't even find it in those days, and I was an onion hater! Something in me knew that if ingredients were handled with skill and love, deliciousness could happen.  

These early cooking show pioneers were the ones I learned from. My parents were from the school of thought that food should be easy and fast and taste like the box it came from. It was hard to work on a gourmet recipe only to hear "boxed would be better." I really honed my skills when I became a stay at home mom. It was then that I had the time available to really pour my heart & soul into my food. I began experimenting with food, techniques and flavors. A lot of things I saw being prepared in the early days on PBS were finally found on my table. Turns out Jeff Smith was right, slow roasting sweet cippolini onions in a good balsamic vinegar is outstanding, just as I always knew it would be.

Who do you cook for?
My family and myself.  Its my goal to put a healthy nutritious and delicious meal on the table that everyone will enjoy. I enjoy cooking for my extended family and friends as well.  

What is important to you when it comes to food (homemade, local, vegetarian, etc. )?
Homemade, from scratch is my specialty. I use as few boxed and processed goods as possible. In my kitchen we have 2 ingredients that are strictly off limits: trans fats also known as partially hydrogenated oil and high fructose corn syrup. After my daughter was born I took a long hard look at the foods we were eating. It wasn't good. Most everything was processed, junk food. Boxed dinners, fast food, pizza, junk, junk and more junk. This was NOT the food example I wanted to set for my child! I started to educate myself about what goes into our foods and was disgusted and dismayed at what I had been eating for 34 years. Did you know that partially hydrogenated oil is 1 atom away from being plastic? Can you imagine what that does to your arteries? While high fructose corn syrup might be okay in moderation, according to the corn growers, take a look at your labels and you'll soon find that HFCS is in EVERYTHING. How can you have moderation if its in 90% of the food you eat?  90% is NOT moderation! Its in bread, coffee creamer, cereal, prepackaged fruit cups, yogurt, jelly and jam, ketchup, you name it, its got HFCS in it. It was then that I decided that the easiest way to handle things was to eliminate the offending items from our diets and make things from scratch with REAL ingredients. I had always said that if I were lucky enough to be a stay at home mom I'd make everything from scratch, from pudding to bread, if you can get it from a grocery store I can make it from scratch.

When I first banned these ingredients I HAD to make most everything from scratch, processed and convenience foods are filled with these no nos.  Now a days make all of our breads, including buns for burgers, crackers, stocks & broths, not to mention baked goods.  I garden and preserve what I grow.  Someday I hope to own chickens for eggs as well as meat birds.  I love to add a gourmet flair to your old standby comfort classics. 

What inspires you in your cooking?
Ooh tough one!  Seasonality is the first thing I though of, using fresh produce at their peak is wonderful.  Nothing tastes quite as good as a red tomato fresh plucked off a vine still warmed from the sun that helped it to grow.  But then again, I'm a very frugal Witch, so getting a screamin' deal also inspires me!  Most of my menus are planned around the sales at the local grocery, which also happen to be seasonal sales.  My final answer would have to be screamin' deals on good seasonal items.  

What is your favorite food or meal?
Great question!  I don't know that I have one favorite food or meal.  I love Mexican food and could eat that all the time.  But then again I love Asian food and make it often.  However there's nothing quite as delicious as a meal of roasted chicken with baked potatoes, a seasonal veggie and salad.  And that's the dish I want to share with you all today!


This recipe I found from cooking great Thomas Keller.  It simply could NOT be easier or taste more delicious.  Don't let the simplicity of this dish fool you into thinking it needs a fancy sauce or extra sprucing up:  the hot oven renders the fat out of the chicken skin, basting the bird and leaving you with a delightfully crispy skin.  The meat is tender, juicy and bursting with roasted chicken flavor.  The jus (pan juices from the roasted bird) are the perfect sauce for the bird, stock, a bit of acid and butter round out their flavor and elevate it from drippings into a luscious jus that really makes the dish.  

Roasted Chicken
recipe courtesy of epicurious (Thomas Keller)

Ingredients:
1 roasting chicken, 3-4 lbs
lots of kosher salt
few grinds of pepper
1-2 sprigs thyme

Wash chicken, removing giblets and neck.  Pat chicken very dry with paper towels inside & out.  You want this bird dry, the less it steams the better the result will be.

Truss the chicken.  If you need instructions on how to truss let the Witch know.

Sprinkle the chicken with kosher salt liberally.  I mean lots of it, like 1T worth.  Sprinkle from high above the bird, it creates a better scatter pattern on the meat and you get better coverage.  The salt is important in flavoring the chicken as well as the crispy skin so don't skimp!  Cover all sides of chicken with salt, add salt & pepper to the cavity as well.

Put the chicken in a skillet and roast at 450 for 45-60 minutes, or until the dark meat temperature reads 180*F.  Remove chicken from pan, sprinkle with fresh thyme leaves and allow to rest for 5-15 minutes before carving.
You can make a pan gravy from the drippings if you wish, simply bring the drippings to a boil and whisk well to loosen the fond from the bottom of the pan.  Add 1/2 c chicken stock and allow to reduce.  Add 1t lemon juice or wine and 2T butter to the reduced sauce.  Serve with the chicken.
Nutrition Facts 
provided by SparkPeople Recipe Calculator
4 Servings

Amount Per Serving
  Calories  226.0
  Total Fat  4.4 g
       Saturated Fat  1.1 g
       Polyunsaturated Fat  1.0 g
       Monounsaturated Fat  1.2 g
  Cholesterol  129.2 mg
  Sodium  145.4 mg
  Potassium  478.8 mg
  Total Carbohydrate  0.0 g
       Dietary Fiber  0.0 g
       Sugars  0.0 g
  Protein  43.6 g

Food for Thought: Sarah

Today, we have Sarah from The Naughty Tastebud. I met Sarah back in college when we were both Interior Design students slaving over cardboard models, drafting tables and laptops and inhaling too much super glue fumes. Her blog is quite inspiring as she's always whipping up unique dishes (like green curry chicken or pumpkin gobs!), that she makes look and sound delicious. After you read her brilliant post below, go check out her blog.


In January of 2009 my husband, Brad, and I decided to change our eating habits. Looking back we had been gearing up to change our food habits for a while – we joined local food Cleveland, read various Michael Pollan books, watched all the trendy films and talked a lot about how we wanted to change but as with a lot of things in life, we didn’t do anything. I’m not sure what the final straw was, but something just clicked with us that particular new years and we decided to take action.

It’s not that we ate particularly bad before, it just depends on your definition of bad. We thought we ate pretty healthy, but then we starting reading the labels of our ‘healthy’ processed foods. Besides fruits & veggies, our typical trip to the grocery store used to include lots of processed foods – low fat granola bars, pretzels or sun chips, fat free yogurt, pita bread (with way too many ingredients), laughing cow cheese, cottage cheese (holy sodium!), canned soup (holy sodium again!), instant oatmeal, cereal, pre-made turkey burgers, pre-made Italian sausages, wheat bread (once again with way too many ingredients), ground turkey, chicken, concentrated juice, fat free instant pudding...etc. Once we started reading the labels we got a little concerned at all the unidentifiable ingredients in the foods we were putting in our bodies. I believe it is in one of Michael Pollan’s books he says if something has more than 5 ingredients in it, he won’t eat it. We decided to try out this rule, as well as his motto “eat food, not too much, mostly plants” and started shopping at our local health food grocery store, signed up for a plot in our community garden and so our food journey began.

It started off as a way to save on our grocery bill and of course, as a way to be a little healthier, but we soon realized we didn’t miss meat much. We still occasionally buy it and enjoy it in social settings, but we gave up our weekly pound of ground turkey & boneless, skinless chicken breasts we used to buy and haven’t missed it. We enjoyed the search for vegetarian dishes and have discovered some of our most favorite meals.  We swapped cereal for homemade granola or oatmeal, canned soup for homemade, pretzels & sun chips for veggies with homemade hummus & black bean dip, meatloaf/assorted chicken dinners for lentil loaf (try it, absolutely delicious!), veggie stir fries, homemade soups, homemade veggie burgers, and an assortment of lentil or bean dishes. We found not only have we saved on our grocery bill, we feel better too. The more we explored our new eating habits the more we realized how important local food was to us so we signed up for a community garden plot and have been able to enjoy the fruits of our labor the past few years....amazing how much more delicious and ‘real’ your food tastes when it comes from your own backyard.  

Recently we have been on an Indian food kick. It is such a versatile cuisine, laden with vegetables and spices, we feel both healthy and extremely satisfied after an Indian meal.  We love going out for Indian, but with a 5 month old, staying in for Indian is even better. Brad is the best when it comes to making something out of nothing and just throwing a meal together, so as long as we have fresh veggies, rice, coconut milk & curry (all staples for us) I know we won’t starve that night. It will come as no surprise then that my most favorite dish in the whole world is an Indian dish –  Spicy Chickpea Soup – paired with homemade naan and oh my gosh, doesn’t get much better than that!

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-paCoxWUk7VQ/TV3fAEQ79wI/AAAAAAAADXQ/b0b9Sxuc7M0/s400/2.17+002.JPG
 
Spicy Chickpea Soup

recipe courtesy of Gathering's Kitchen

Ingredients:
(2) 19-ounce cans chickpeas, drained
(1) 13.5 ounce can light coconut milk
1/2 C crush or chopped tomatoes
1/4 C apple juice
1/4 cilantro leaves
1/2 tsp garam masala (recipe below)
1/2 tsp ground ginger (we used fresh)
1 C chicken stock
salt & freshly ground pepper
1/4 C plain yogurt
2 scallions, green parts only, thinly sliced


In a blender, combine the drained chickpeas with the coconut milk, chopped tomatoes, apple juice, cilantro leaves, garam masala and ground ginger and puree the mixture until smooth.


Transfer the puree to a medium saucepan. Stir in the chicken stock and bring to a simmer over moderately high heat. Season to taste with salt & black pepper.


Ladle the soup into bowls, top with yogurt and scallion greens and serve.

Garam Masala
recipe courtesy of epicurious.com

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon dried miniature rosebuds (or black cardamom pods - optional)
A 1-inch piece cinnamon stick, broken into pieces
2 bay leaves
1/4 cup cumin seeds
1/3 cup coriander seeds
1 tablespoon green cardamom pods
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
2 teaspoons whole cloves
1 dried red chile
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground mace


If the roses have stems, break them off and discard. Heat the roses with the cinnamon, bay leaves, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, cardamom pods, whole peppercorns, cloves, and chile in a medium skillet over medium-high heat, stirring often, until the cumin becomes brown, 2 1/2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a spice grinder or coffee mill, add the nutmeg and mace, and grind until powder fine. Store in an airtight container for up to 4 months.